Monday, 29 February 2016

Film: 'Flash Gordon' (1980)

"Check the angular vector of the moon!"

Why not write about 'Flash Gordon' again? It's a monumental achievement, produced by a madman, part improvised on the fly, and scored by rock geniuses. There are quotes aplenty and a blockbuster role for Brian Blessed. Oh, and there are guards with very literal 'hand-guns'. Mwahahaha. 'Flash Gordon' is the stuff that dreams are made of, and the classical comic book movie. It may indeed be the only perfect comic strip movie, and one indelibly and beautifully engraved on the mind's eye. Does it make sense? No, it's total nonsense, but its heart is in the right place, and there is internal sense throughout.

"Flying blind on a rocket cycle?"

Of course, this is not a film to watch if you have problems with Brian Blessed in golden wings and a spiky helmet. It's not a film to be taken seriously on any level, and is really a pure romance of the old definition masquerading as an action film. The costumes are a sight to behold, with masks, capes and brocade aplenty, as supplied by the grand costumiers of Italy. The influence of the old movie serials is clear to see, and the brilliance of the costumes and sets is thrilling.

"Pathetic Earthlings."

Added to the incredible production values, you get Timothy Dalton a few years before his James Bond years, Max von Sydow going through the full gamut of theatricality as chief villain Ming the Merciless, and an American football fight sequence that has to be seen to be believed. Everything is interesting in some way in 'Flash Gordon', even the corny romance at its core. To borrow from one of the film's DVD commentaries, the film is fascinatingly 'pure', and the purity it possesses allows anything to become acceptable. In the world of 'Flash Gordon', an hourglass that runs against gravity is barely noteworthy.

"Flash, I love you!  But we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!"

Oh, if only Queen could have scored more movies. Their work on 'Flash Gordon' is astonishing in places, although I'm not sure if they're responsible for the more orchestral pieces. There are transcendent moments, especially when the rocket ship is drifting through space or the gas is wafting into the execution chamber. It's a film that is actually scored very subtly, even when taking the theme song into account. It all works, drawn together by invisible glue and a measure of insanity.

"A-ha! I thought it was one of the prime numbers of the Zeeman series. I haven't changed!"

'Flash Gordon' is often described as campy. I have no idea what 'campy' means, though, and prefer to think about it in other terms. It's innocent but racy, colourful and daft, epic adventure and goofball romance, indescribable and filled with style, and totally coherent despite being often quite nonsensical. If all those things sound good, then you have to watch 'Flash Gordon'!

"Will it make me forget?" "No, but it will make you not mind remembering."


Saturday, 27 February 2016

Words On A Saturday

Another day, another post to write, and another blank mind to overcome. On another day this could be the latest reading overview, but not today. Today has to be about writing in the stream, and never wavering from that path. Yes, I could wander off on tangents like 'Sapphire And Steel', 'The Six Million Dollar', 'Going Postal' or Rimsky-Korsakov, but who can say for sure? Actually, it was really nice to listen to some Rimsky-Korsakov on Youtube recently, the great piece known as 'Scheherazade', named for the character in 'The Thousand And One Nights'. It was breathtaking. Classical music can often be breathtaking, if you allow it to be.

It is a Saturday, the day named after Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. It's lovely to think that we retain such names, the other notable one being Thursday, named after Thor the Norse god of Thunder. Where do the other day names refer to? They're interesting and less obvious, and worthy of being investigated...

Again, it is a Saturday, and things are slow. Last time, the story 'Diary Of A Laundry Robot' was extended, and is proving rather fun to write. It's fun to write about laundry robots in an alternate dimension's future, co-opted to clean the hats of pan-dimensional history wardens. The randomness is fun.

There will be more words on another day, but for now no more.


Thursday, 25 February 2016

Story: 'Diary of a Laundry Robot', Week VI

( Week V , Week VII )


A week off. It's a mystifying concept. Even as I write this entry, the idea of not working and simultaneously not being down for recharge and maintenance is boggling. Supervisor Querg said I would get used to it, once my logic circuits have readjusted, and gave me a guide book for this part of the Continuum. Celia and I have spent the morning taking turns reading the book and coming up with ideas for exploration. Soon, we will set out into the great unknown without an escort for the first time.


The Quergs live in a strange place. Apparently, as custodians of space, time and history, their space is only tangentially connected to the rest of the universe. When we were out exploring yesterday, before we were overcome by the sheer freedom of it all, we saw the Vault of Secret Pages, the Book Maker's Mansion, the five great Stones of Predestiny, and the Cacaphonic Monument to the Indices of the Clomp. What could we possibly do with the remaining days? Throughout, we saw all the Clomps going about their business, in their grand variety of hats and bobbles. There were no neckties. Celia owes me two energon cubes, should we ever return to our old home.


I have rested voluntarily for the first time. It was a strange experience. Apparently, people do this all the time? The Quergs rest by reading a good book, and telling stories about their adventures in and around the time space continuum or their grand Hat Making Village. The people in our old home would relax by grand traditions and rituals, none of which made any sense, and mostly revolved around kicking balls around or spraying fake feathers at the newest celebrities. Today, which stretches abundantly before us, is currently free, and I think it would be a good thing to check on our laundry facility, so recently established.


Someone was lurking outside our laundry building. I watched them lurking. It wasn't a Querg, and it wasn't Celia. Who would want to watch an empty laundry, in between shifts of washing for the Bureau of History? It seems nonsensical, almost as nonsensical as being whisked away to this timeless space beyond that of our old world. Later, once we enter Quergish Day Time, I will approach my supervisor, Querg by name, and tell him about all of this. I'm sure they will be interested. Celia certainly was, and declared me rather brave in my attempt to follow the lurker when they eventually left last night. Sadly, laundry robots aren't designed for stealth or speed and the suspicious surveiller escaped. I worry that Celia is becoming far too effusive in her admiration. Sigh.


Querg was fascinated by my story yesterday, and security has been upgraded around the Bureau Laundry site. Apparently, it should be impossible for any beings to enter the Querg Continuum uninvited, but his expression was uncertain when he imparted that information, and the jingle of his hat bell muted. Celia and I concluded the last weekday of our holiday with a guided tour of the Hat Making Village, where we saw the famous Head Maker himself. She presented us with a framed illustration of all the hat varieties work by the Quergs, which we will proudly hang in the laundry. The weekend looms, and we will have some time with our maintenance Querg. Hopefully, the lurker will not return.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

A World Of Napkins And A Pineapple

It's not impossible. This is an achievable task. Somehow, I will write this post and eventually finish reading 'Kai Lunk Unrolls His Mat'. It's not a bad book, and this is not a difficult thing to write. They are not impossible, and therefore definitely tractable problems. Oh, for a world of napkins and a pineapple!

A world of napkins and a pineapple? Is this madness on the page? No, not at all. You need the world of napkins, preferably orbiting between Earth and Mars, in order to soak up the vast amount of electromagnetic soup we aim at that serene other world, and the probes that have been crawling over it. Yes, a world of napkins... The pineapple? Well, you eat that, of course. What a funny question to ask! Yes, the world might be coming apart at at the seams, but we would still eat the pineapple, or use it to power nuclear fusion.

These are what we might call 'interesting times' and our curse is to be living in them. Things will change radically over the next few months, and no-one can quite say how. Whatever happens, we can only hope that they change based on reasoning, rationality and philanthropy, and not xenophobia, hatred or corporate puppetry. Yes, a lifetime of cynical experience of the real world must be proven incorrect.

'Eli's Coming' said Dan Rydell on 'Sports Night', and we'll have to see if he's right. I'll explain more in a couple of days. Now, in defence of 'Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat', I have to say that every individual story in the book is very well written, but... Well, there's no point in repeating my frequent rant about the difficulties of reading short stories. These are really good. Maybe I need therapy? Short story therapy? Is that possible? Oh, this is the penalty of consistently putting off short story collections until they're the only things left in the box of unread books! It's literary karma!

The first season of 'Sports Night' (see Dan Rydell remark) has been wonderful to watch again. The second season still sounds miserable and messed up, though, so it will continue to be passed over. Such is the way of things. You see, what they really needed to introduce was a world of napkins and a pineapple, or a mango if they couldn't find that sainted fruit. Mangos are allowable in leap years, or months which end in a 'y'.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

Television: 'Taxi: Season 1' (1978-1979)

To date, I've only seen the first season of the legendary series 'Taxi', that ran for five seasons from 1978. It's legendary for a reason, and that reason is evident from the very beginning. 'Taxi' is goofy but simultaneously real. There is no way that this show can be confused with any other sitcom, as they all exist in variously paradisaical dimensions. Bad things happen in 'Taxi', and they're not always offset by other better things.

We'll do each season, one-by-one, here on the Quirky Muffin, although it will take a long time. By the end, the series will have transformed completely, with several character replacements, a change in network, and a renovation of the barking mad Andy Kaufman character of Latka Graves. For now, in season one, we have an extremely brave production which goes places unknown to other shows. Obesity and poor self-image, career woes, pill addiction, elopement, and various other less serious issues vie for story time as the drivers at Sunshine Cabs go through their lives, trying to make it big in their chosen careers while living on driving money, and routinely failing to escape.

This is the season which boosted Danny DeVito into the big time, reinforced Judd Hirsch as a television star, and showcased the weirdness of Andy Kaufman. Along with Marilu Henner, Jeff Conaway, Tony Danzer and Randall Carver, they form a solid cast that could cope with almost any setting. Yes, Carver would leave at the end of the season and take his naive character with him, and Conaway would thankfully take my least favourite character away after the third season. For now, however, everyone does his part, and builds up the show for what will be a great second year, and one which we get a preview of when Christopher Lloyd makes his debut mid-season. What is this deal with his Reverend Jim, anyway?

It's gritty, packs an emotional punch, has a few clunkers (mostly involving Conaway's Bobby Wheeler), and has a heart of gold. We'll wrap this up with the Quirky Muffin's highlights of season one: (1) 'Like Father, Like Daughter', the first episode in which series lead Hirsch's Alex is reunited with his daughter; (11 and 12) 'Memories of Cab 804', in which Tom Selleck appears in one of the stories; (20) 'Alex Tastes Death and Finds a Nice Restaurant', in which Alex has a crisis and becomes a waiter.

It's a solid season of a show that hits some spots no other comedy would think to reach for. What will come in future years? Christopher Lloyd...


Friday, 19 February 2016

The Prospect Is Greater Than The Reality

Planning trips is far more enjoyable than actually making them. This is a personal truth. The act of working out trips, without flying, such that all the various legs fit together economically (or decadently), can be engrossing. Yes, you can get the cruise back from Santander in Spain to Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, but if you do then there won't be any coaches to get you home, so it will have to be trains. The trains are more expensive, though. Perhaps staying overnight would be better? Can you spare the night? Hmm. Is it easier to sail into Plymouth? Or stop off in Roscoff? Does changing boats in Roscoff make sense? Ooh, that may be more interesting. Yes, if you want to get lost in a barrel full of timetables, juggling fares and interchanges as you go, then planning a surface trip is the option to take.

The options are endless once you include all of coaches, trains and ships, and all the boisterous combinations that ensue. For example, if you want to go to the South of France, and choose the train, then you are almost certainly condemned to crossing both London and Paris in one day by their respective undergrounds, unless you happen to choose the one direct (well, there is more than one outside of the Winter months) train to Marseille from London each week. However, if you do that, or get a Eurolines coach, then you have to start from London before breakfast, which requires staying over, and then things escalate again. Or, if you're going to Switzerland, you should try to book any journeys crossing Germany only between stations in Germany because the prices will be cheaper. The loopholes and contingencies go on for ever!

Returning to trains for a moment, crossing London and Paris in one day is quite a gruelling experience. It shouldn't be, but it is. I, for one, would do almost anything to avoid it. There are options, and my apologies go out to anyone utterly disinterested in travel talk, and they mostly involve Brussels or the awesomeness of sea travel. Yes, there are legions of ferries that go to France, and an especially lovely cruise ferry that goes to the Hook of Holland from Harwich, if you're interested in all the other parts of Europe. You can get around Paris, although the computers do relentlessly try to force you through Paris, and Barcelona if you go into the Iberian Peninsula. There are other options, but you have to micro-manage, and go step by step. Paris can be beaten!

Yes, travelling is far less fun than the planning. Break out your spreadsheets, and give it a try. Useful websites include,,, and of course for getting cashback on all the purchases!

Here endeth the lesson,


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Rambling Guy

I could write anything in this post. It's going to be one of those pieces that could go anywhere, via a balloon trip to the moon, a mirrored pathway to the dimensions of light, or even a little bottle with the note that reads 'drink me'. Sometimes there doesn't need to be a rhyme or reason to anything at all. It will, however, probably prove to be far less interesting.

Tutoring continues, after a brief visit to the past objectified by Nottingham (a weekend spent making the leafdaughter laugh as much as humanly possible), as does the endless run of tiredness which worries constantly. It's not right to be tired so much of the time. It can't be. It would be more pleasant to see a white rabbit examine his gold watch or a kangaroo spin bowls full of jelly atop poles. Hmm, do you think kangaroos would be good at plate spinning? Best make a note in the event of animal acts becoming more acceptable in the future.

Anything could happen in the next half hour, as would be said in 'Stingray' every week. One of the great things about being raised on reruns is a broad exposure to the whole history of television, from the wackiness of 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea', to the dramatic punch of 'Quantum Leap' and the wonders in between of 'Star Trek', 'Cheers' and 'MASH'. It's wonderful to run that gamut, and then throw in 'Stingray', 'Batman' and even 'Hunter' as well. Then, there were the books, which unsurprisingly began with David Eddings, and piles of 'Star Trek' and 'The A-Team' novelisations and novels, as well as 'The Magician's Nephew' and some of the other usual suspects. It was nice.

The words will stop in a moment, as fatigue sets in and sleep beckons. There will be more book talk in upcoming days, and perhaps a revision to the slightly confused ramble about 'The Master And Margarita'. Oh, and the ever confounding process of booking surface travel will be covered, as a journey to France and perhaps Spain is compiled. Such planning is rather complicated! It would have been easier to wind up a cosmic cog and be catapulted through a crack in the space time continuum.


Monday, 15 February 2016

Book: 'The Master And Margarita' by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)

Fascinating. A great Russian novel which belies their reputation (in my misbehaving mind) of unending misery and gloomy death-laden finales. Now, that's not to say that 'The Master And Margarita' (TMAM) has a happy ending, but it certainly has at least an ambiguous one.

TMAM needs to be considered as a novel of two halves, which may not necessarily match. The first consists of the arrival of the devil called Woland to Moscow, with his own troupe, and the chaos they cause with all their mischief, while the second is driven by the eponymous Margarita and her persistently anonymous lover known only as 'the master' due to her admiration of his unpublished novel. This is all linked together by a backstory involving Pontius Pilate and Jesus, but don't go expecting a religious book, as it's really not. A brief skimming of Wikipedia reveals that, once again, I have missed a broad swathe of satire in the novel, but I would characterize it as being irreligious in the grander scheme of things.

It it a 'great novel', at least in its translation? It's genuinely hard to say. The fact that I finished it so quickly, and with enjoyment, would perhaps indicate that it isn't, as my tastes don't run in that direction. Is it a successful bawdy romp? Yes and no, as the second half is markedly less of a romp and winds down the story in a non-climactic manner. On the other hand, much of the demonic japes involve nakedness and counterfeit money, the former of which is almost the definition of bawdiness. There is no definite ending, merely a departure of the antagonists. Woland is not defeated, but merely leaves in search of fresh mischief. It's fitting but non-climactic, despite fitting into my theory of 'en media res' at beginning and end.

Is it satirical? I don't know. Is this a wonderful text in the translation by Michael Glenny? Yes. It's witty and enthralling, despite tailing off toward the end. Does it say something about the human condition? Not particularly. I can't work it out, and it will need to be reread. That need to be reread is a sign of quality.

Hmm, a blog post that ultimately says nothing. That's not unusual!


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

A Brief Intermission

Trips always come in pairs, as is known the world over, so the Quirky Muffin will be on brief intermission until next Monday, although there is the possibility of cover posts if the stars align correctly.

It has been a heavy week of tutoring, with an assessment of a new student, and much second guessing. Notes were created to help patch up the gaps in the GCSE Mathematics course, and now a trip to Nottingham is upon this reluctant author. Oh, the perils of travelling! The long coach journey awaits, but at least it's not a journey by plane or train. Trains used to be a lot more fun, but now coaches are my favourite. How things change...

Nottingham, land of my doctorate, the home of torment and occasional pleasure trips to Sainsbury. Yes, it was a time when trips to the supermarket were the highlight of the week. In fact, making it all the way to ASDA is still the highlight of the week when I can manage it. What does that mean? All levity aside, it will be nice to see my friends and plot to teleport the university campus to the surface of the Moon. Incidentally the moon is incredible far away. Look it up, and be astounded.

Oh, such a quiet few days, apart from an extensive amount of language exchange. It's so nice to finally get Spanish practice, and give back some English. Actually, it's tilted more toward English at the moment, but things will tip back when Spanish courses kick into action. Where on Earth could I get a Spanish course, anyway?

Time to think.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Story: The Glove, IX

( Part VIII , X )

(I could just doodle randomly here until I come up with something not-terrible. Perhaps it would be a description of Steffan's room at the inn, or motivation for the sundering of Ganymede's society into such a disjointed system. Maybe it could be an advancement of the reasoning why Steffan didn't take the job offered him? How exactly did the mountain behind the reception desk of the Rock of Augustus know why Steffan was coming, anyway?)

"Ah, it's a good thing that you arrived when you did, as I was about to shut for lunch, as Aggie is away today on college course. You wouldn't think she would need to know any more after two degrees, but it's a funny old world." The mountain was still talking, and Steffan hadn't managed to get many words into the spaces left over. "It will surely be nice to have such a linguist in the place, when she's done."

"I, uh, who's Aggie?" Enquired the young arrival rather dazedly of his impressive companion.

"Oh, my niece Agnethia. She's the brain of the family. Used to keep fish in the old casks we used for making cider. Fine girl, if a bit prone to jumping to conclusions."

There was a pause in the proceedings, as Steffan's host showed to him his room, stuffed a key into his hand, and went back downstairs for his luggage. It was a warm room, with some nice rugs and minimal decoration. The bed was bouncy enough, and by the time the innkeeper had returned, Steffan had recovered some of his wits. You may have noticed that the young piper is nonplussed rather easily. Such is the way of life.

When the man mountain returned, Steffan bounced up and thanked him politely, and then asked him his name.

"Well, that's a good question, lad. Not quite as good as 'What on Troos is going on?' but getting there, definitely." He stomped over to the most substantial looking wall and leaned back. "My name is Rook, and I run this place. For a while now it has been the Rook of Augustus, at least in my head."

"And you were expecting me because...?"

"Ah, well, a little birdie told me you might be coming along. Let's leave it at that for the moment, shall we?"

"Leave it at that?! By the moons of Troos, what is going on?" Steffan's curiosity was beginning to overflow.

"Well, it can at least wait until after dinner, don't you think?" Rook was definitely looking evasive, but the mention of a meal kicked Steffan's insides into overdrive.


"Aye, lad, I'll tell you a little bit of the status quo after eating. You did the right thing by not joining the Guild, that I'll tell you now. Let's get to the pasta and the meat!" With that, Rook the mountain led Steffan away to the banquet room, and we adjourn once again.

There shall be more...

Friday, 5 February 2016

Take Two

The previous attempt is scrunched up and shunted to the bottom of the page. It's time to go for the second take, where everything is more sincere, and the encroaching artifice is thrown away in favour of giant penguins and the march of insomnia across the land. Yes, welcome to the Quirky Muffin, where a rhythm has been difficult to find following that trip overseas.

In coming days, including the mild but hopefully invisible disruption that you won't notice, you can expect a multitude of things. Specifics are not available at this time, but continuations of 'The Glove', 'The Ninja Of Health' and 'Diary Of A Laundry Robot' could all pop up, as could some book related posts. The land of topical news is too gloomy to be mentioned, but hopefully some chatter will run about 'M*A*S*H', 'The Invaders' or 'Quantum Leap'. Actually, that last series is making a comeback in my estimation after years in the doghouse but we'll get to that in good time. I really want to get the stories back on track and hope to work on the active ones, before kicking off 'The Wheels In The Sky' and the continuing second phases of 'Wordspace' and 'Triangles'. Theoretically, the years-long story order of priority would look something like this:

'The Ninja Of Health';
'The Glove';
'Diary Of A Laundry Robot';
'Oneiromancy' (revised whole);
'The Disappearance' (revised whole);
'The Wheels In The Sky';
'Triangles, Phase II';
'Wordspace, Phase II'.

How's that for an ambitious scheme? The stories have been really difficult recently, and 'The Glove' has been difficult for years now! I wonder why? It may actually have to be junked, which is a scary concept. That's right, a first scrapped story project! We've had reboots, and excised chapters before, but never an entirely scrapped project... There needs to be something novel at the heart of it, and there really isn't at the moment. Maybe having a story where the novelty is that the space colony is Scottish isn't quite enough? We shall see.


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Movie: 'Honey, I Shrunk The Kids' (1989)

Its virtue lies in its simplicity, sincerity and innocence. Its value is enhanced by Rick Moranis in his signature role, and an excellent surrounding cast. The story is rich in character and naturally steeped in spectacle. The film is 'Honey, I Shrunk The Kids' (HISTK), and there can no impartiality in this post.

HISTK is a funny and amazingly detailed adventure movie, yes they used to make adventure films back in the day, about zany inventor Wayne Szalinski working on a miniaturization beam in his attic, his worried wife, and the adventure of both their and their neighbouring couple's children, when they're accidentally shrunk down to bug size and dumped out with the trash at the other end of the back yard. Will the kids make it through the now jungle of a backyard, and will Wayne be able to restore them to normal? Well, that's not really the crux of the movie as it's really a coming of age story about the kids, two of them about to reach their majorities, and the other two of the younger variety.

One of the keys to HISTK lies in its homespun and detailed production design, where nothing but the miniaturization laser itself would look out of place in any standard suburban home, and everything looks naturalistic to the suburban setting. The enlarged garden and interior sets are marvelous and wonderfully detailed, to the point where you realise that floorboards and flagstones must really look like that at the smaller scales, and the hard work of constructing it all shines through brightly.

On paper, it's an effects-driven film, but in reality this is about three and a bit love stories, as two sets of parents reconcile, a star-crossed pair of adolescents discover each other, and their younger siblings gain and lose a quite unexpected friend while growing up a little in the process. Oh, and there's a flight on a manic bumblebee, for the effects lovers.

A long time ago, the nominal leading young lady of the piece, Amy of the jungle, was the receptacle for quite the teenage infatuation. Now, she's the standout performer of an amazingly talented youthful cast. Meanwhile, the adult stars are the ever notable Rick Moranis and Matt Frewer, backed up by Kristine Sutherland and Marcia Strassman (Nurse Margie Cutler from the first season of 'M*A*S*H'!), and all excel.

Before we finish, without any criticism as there's not really anything to criticize, special notes of recommendation go out to James Horner's fantastically jazzy score, the excellently maintained tone of the whole film, and its beauty in being only ninety minutes long. It completely works, and there's no attempt to pad it out at all. The humour is low key and detailed as often as it is broad and zany, and there remains nothing more to be said.


Note: None of the post applies to the sequels, which were reputedly cash-ins of the first order. Watch those at your own risk.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Literary Reflection, I

Building my book catalogue on LibraryThing, it's becoming clear that my collection is dominated by pulpy television spins-off, and length genre series, with a small number of one-off novels of undoubted excellence. There's a real absence of the heavyweight authors and worthy novels that some might find indispensable, but... It's good. It's amazing to see things afresh and really just how many 'Star Trek' novels are kicking about the place, or pick up an 'A-Team' novelization and find out it's actually well written! There was no need to avoid them for years due to fears of broken nostalgia! (That's what the 'Doctor Who: New Adventures' are for.)

While all these 'Star Trek' novels, volumes of 'Sherlock Holmes', Pratchett works, and the glorious David Eddings sagas may not be the most gloriously acclaimed texts in the history of literature, they did do a good job. I read voraciously, and then expanded. They set up everything that followed, and perhaps that's the thing to remember when compiling reading lists for students in English. The best thing is to make these introductory books interesting and exciting. So what if there aren't many contemporary books for boys? Let's feed them Willard Price, Jules Verne, and maybe even Zorro or Tarzan!

As part of the holiday cover, I wrote the inaugural 'On The Book Piles', which was a less in-depth survey of items on the reading mountains, and in a brief follow up, it's time to unleash some words on completed reads, which were maybe not interesting enough or noteworthy enough for their own posts.

'A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court' (1889) by Mark Twain: Ultimately, despite the high concept of the idea, this novels falls foul of the laboured satire of the times. It begins well, and it ends well, but the strain of being so critical weighs it down horribly. As with 'The Prince And The Pauper', 'A Connecticut Yankee' feels like it has far too little story for its length, but the ambition was bold, and it surely counts as one of the forerunners of modern science fiction, just like Jules Verne.

'Jamaica Inn' by Daphne Du Maurier (1936): Ultimately, after a promising beginning, this never quite gets above my ultimate criticism of novels, which is to be written like a bestseller. The meaning of that criticism is ambiguous, but I choose to wield it as a reflection on a lack of secondary layers or meanings. There is nothing else happening apart from the text, and it's frustrating. You can get away with that in juvenile fiction, bestsellers and tie-in novels where familiarity adds subtext, but not here. Having said all that, it's a well written thriller, accounting for its success, but not one that ever needs to be re-read. There is nothing more to be found in the text.

'Dead Man's Cove' by Lauren St John (2011): This almost manages to get a post of its own, and may still. The first novel of the 'Laura Marlin' mysteries is an impressive one, and finally provides a youthful detective for girls. Yes, there was Nancy Drew before, but I never read a 'Nancy Drew'. Well conceived, and well written, the reason why it gets mentioned here instead of in its own post is the number of references to 'Jamaica Inn', rendering it thematically tied to the rest of the post. For me, the mystery stories were provided by 'The Hardy Boys', 'The Famous Five' and 'The Secret Seven', and it's nice to see some additions being made to the genre. Where will Laura Marlin's series go? There are still three novels to go. I just hope it doesn't get horrid with adolescent nonsense! It's nice to see a narrative based in St Ives.

There will be more literary reflections...